One of the most moving and thought provoking monuments at Gettysburg National
Military Park, the "Friend to Friend" monument depicts Confederate Brigadier General
Lewis A. Armistead handing his watch to Captain Bingham, a Union Solder. General Armistead had been
a very close friend with Union General Winfield Scott Hancock since 1844, 17 years before the start
of the war. After receiving word of the secession of Southern States, Armistead knew that he, a son
of Virginia, and Hancock from Pennsylvania, would serve different causes. Armistead is said to
have asked that God strike him dead if he ever brought harm to his friend.
Prior to the battles of the third day of Gettysburg, General Armistead, sensing the possible outcome
of the day, asked that General Longstreet ensure the delivery of a package to Elmira Hancock, Win's
wife, should he be struck down. The package contained his bible.
Late on July 3rd, after a valiant surge to the Union lines and crossing onto Cemetery Ridge, General
Armistead was shot in the leg and arm. Finding him, Captain Bingham,
who served under Hancock, asked if General Armistead had any possessions for which he might care. While handing
the Captain his watch and other possessions, General Armistead asked that this message be given to his friend.
"Tell General Hancock for me that I have done him and done you all an injury which I shall regret the
longest day I live."
Lt. Colonel Frank Aretus Haskell, an officer in Hancock's Corps present during the charge, would offer a slight different,
far more controversial version of these events. In a letter to his brother shortly after the battle, Haskell reported the
events thus. " ’Tell General Hancock,’ he said to Lieutenant Mitchell, Hancock’s aide-de-camp, to whom
he handed his watch, ’that I know I did my country a great wrong when I took up arms against her, for which I am sorry,
but for which I cannot live to atone.’ "
Although an ardent Unionist, Haskell would also offer "The enemy, too, showed a determination and valor worthy of a better
cause. Their conduct in this battle even makes me proud of them as Americans. They would have been victorious over any but the
best of soldiers. Lee and his generals presumed too much upon some past successes, and did not estimate how much they were due
on their part to position, as at Fredericksburg, or on our part to bad generalship, as at the 2d Bull Run and
This war was unquestionably the bloodiest in American history. But the horror and atrocity could not break the bonds forged by
some prior to the conflict. In some cases, friendship transcended war, even death.
Years after the war, members of the former Confederate States took serious offense to the claims by several Union Soldiers that
General Armistead expressed regret for his actions. The following was taken from the "Southern Historical Society Papers"
p. 423, Notes and Queries, Volume X, Richmond Virginia, August - September 1882, Numbers 8 & 9 August and September.
"Did General Armistead Fight on the Federal Side at First Manassas or Confess when Dying at Gettysburg that He had
been Engaged in an "Unholy Cause ?"
"We have, in previous "Notes and Queries," answered in the negative both of these questions; but we now submit
the following conclusive statement of the whole case.
General Abner Doubleday in his book on "Chancellorsville and Gettysburg" (page 195), makes the following remarkable
statement in describing the charge of Pickett’s Division. "Armistead was shot down by the side of the gun he had taken.
It is said he had fought on our side in the first battle at Bull Run, but had been seduced by Southern affiliations for join in the
rebellion, and now dying in the effort to extend the area of slavery over the free States, he saw with a clearer vision that
he had been engaged in an unholy cause, and said to one of our officers who leaned over him: "Tell Hancock I have wronged him
and have wronged my country."
The friends of General Armistead are indignant at this statement which they pronounce a slander "out of the whole cloth,"
and are anxious that its refutation should have the widest circulation."
They went on to note that General Doubleday later recanted his initial claim regarding General Armistead's Union involvement in the
Battle of First Bull Run/Manassas.
The above text from the Southern Historical Society Papers can be found at the from The
Armistead Homepage Southern Historical Society Papers web site.
Please click here
for more of this text or
to access their site's homepage.